Saturday, December 26, 2009


heart 005
This wooden heart was delivered to my door last week. I am one of many local artists who agreed to participate in a local Hospice fundraiser by creating a piece of art out of a simple wooden heart. The hearts will be put up for silent auction at a Hospice dinner that I believe coincides with Valentine's Day.
I've had the heart sitting on an open shelf in my kitchen; we look at each other a lot. That's how I often times begin creations - starting with one element as a blank slate and letting the ideas and images that might possibly follow roll across my brain until something takes hold. This one hasn't been easy for me. It's the hard wooden object that's getting in my way. Yes, I'll add fabric (of course), but I seem to be stuck on dressing this heart, and that 3-d form of sewing is a bit out of my element. With a due date of February 1st not much more than a month away, I decided today would be the day to get started and at least see where my attempts lead me.
heart 006
So......wanting to put some feminine curves into this heart body, I began to imagine how I could do this. All I could think of were the darts and curves and piecing I did in high school (MANY years ago) when I was sewing my own clothes, so I reverted to that idea. I traced the heart and dissected it with some feminine lines, then cut individual pieces  of muslin and hand stitched them together again. I realized part way through that all I was doing was putting together another flat patchwork  piece, but now that I'm partially completed with this step, there seems to be some dimension to it so I can stuff batting into the covered form to get somewhat of a shapely object to work with.
I haven't yet decided if this is the direction I'll take. The jury's still out on this one. The next step is dyeing to a color somewhere in the red family, but that will be another day. Hopefully sooner than later!
I really love blank slates. I receive a new one each month with my quilt journal group. I participate in my guild's summer challenge that provides a theme and less-than-attractive swatch of fabric with the direction to "CREATE!". My pattern is to hear the task at hand, initially dig my heels in deep, deep, deep, and say something to myself like "no way will I ever come up with an idea for this...", and somehow, as the slate and I spend time together, gaze at each other, and those ideas start drifting and mulling around my brain, I grab on to something and go with it. I'm usually pleased with the results and my confidence builds with each completion. It's an affirmation to me to try different things, get out of my rut, be open, take challenges, accept new ideas.
So here I am again, the blank slate at hand, playing around with ideas, and seeing where we'll go together. There's such joy in the journey!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Pinatas. Parties. Music. Family. Food. Friendship. Lights. Celebration. More family. Late hours. More parties. More family. That's the holiday season in Mexico. Maybe a gift or two, but they aren't mandatory. It's lovely!
spool ornament
Decorations in our house consist of one very tall (9') artificial tree we purchased used in Anacortes, WA., and hauled down here in our truck. It cost us a whopping $25 and is even complete with lights. It graces our entrance, and because we have our front door open throughout the day, neighbors and visitors can catch a glimpse our beautiful tree. For decorations we have a few store bought items, some trinkets and memorabilia from travels and such, and then there's my homemade spool ornaments. I save my empties, cover them with glitter (ah, glitter!), then hang shreds of thinly sliced hand-dyes from the bottom (ah, the rotary cutter!). A sweet paper bead or two attaches to the string, and's my funky homemade ornament. I love them. Last year I had a stash of spools waiting to "glitter-up" when I decided to give a young neighbor teen this task. The perfect teen job, only I had no idea what to pay her and I hadn't bothered to count them. At my offer of 3 pesos each, those 150 spools (I had no idea!) cost me almost $35.  Oh well!
I have another Christmas item that never gets packed away. I use it as a coaster on my desk. Years back (maybe 5?) I wanted to try some flower pounding...and did so with my poinsettia. I treated my cotton with alum and salt, carefully placed the petals, and headed to the beach to look for the perfect rock for pounding. It's a bit faded now but the stitching keeps its poinsettia essence alive!  And it's reversible!
poinsetta reverse
Seasonal spirit in the streets and seasonal spirit in our homes....representing love in our hearts, generosity,  and hope for peace in our troubled world. May the spirit belong to all of us!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


If you have ever been to my home, you probably have noticed that some sort of fiber art, mostly mine, is on the walls. For a few years I was active in the "artwalk" scene here and I just went ahead and set up our new home as a personal gallery. It suited me well, and was ready to go when people came through. Plus, I love and am proud of my work.
But this piece jumped out at me at a local art show 4 years ago, and I instantly knew I wanted it. Plus, it was a few days before my birthday, so I had good reason to splurge. The texture, the color, the light and the content spoke to me. Suddenly my eye noticed other paintings from this artist, who signs SANDRA on each, that were equally amazing....a load of pinatas, bright woven satchels on a hook, stacks of traditional Mexican fabrics on a shelf. The choices, the choices, those textural choices . But my eye returned to the initial attraction and I began negotiations with Sandra.
If you have ever been to my home, I know you have noticed this painting in a prominent position high atop my kitchen sink. Everyone does. I don't take offense that it receives more comments than my work; I am honored to display them together. Everyday, without fail, it draws me to its light.
But those other paintings, particulary that stack of traditional fabrics, kept calling to me. So last April I called Sandra to see if she could create one for a space over my sofa. She checked my colors, measured for size and promised a finished painting in November on my return. Last week she delivered it and I am more than happy. These paintings face each other in my big, open-spaced home so I feel surrounded by their color and warmth. So lovely!
telas de sandra
Sandra Felix Donnadieau is my favorite Mexican artist. Who's yours?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


feliz navidad
This is my  quilt journal piece for the month of December, with the theme of "food". I'm not sure where this idea came from, but somehow watermelon had been swimming around my brain as such a lovely simple design element. I often see trucks brim full of watermelon driving down the road and I always wonder where they've come from and where they're going. The watermelon image kept swimming, and swimming some more and then all of a sudden did a flip or two and turned into the perfect Christmas tree...thus here is my holiday card this year! I first made the 3-layer circular cross section of the melon, then sliced it into sections and set them on top of the dark green fabric. how was I going to add the message? I first considered quilting it in, but there wasn't much space, so I decided to scribble "feliz navided" across my background fabric with my favorite little fine-tipped bottle filled with Soft Scrub with bleach. There's a few blobs and blurbs, but that's my style, I think. Stars atop each tree were added with embroidery floss as finishing touches.
I wish you a wonderful holiday season, my friends! Love, Mary

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Sometimes inspiration seems to be just beyond our reach. We know it's there, but the arrow just doesn't quite hit the mark. Fuzzy, blurry, out of focus, or maybe scattered. For me, I just plug on with some sort of project or another until it comes to me. Also for me, the inspiration I'm looking  for isn't just ANOTHER project. It's an expression of my soul, something that sparks me and touches me. Sometimes it is fabric-driven and other times it comes from someplace else. This recent one was a marriage of the two.
I belong to a wonderfully supportive women's group: four of us meet once or twice a month for sharing our lives, our goals, our fears, etc. At our last meet, one friend shared one of her "yoga" poems - she is a yoga teacher and was inspired to write lovely little poems to exemplify each pose. She read this one aloud to us:
mountain poem
Her words must have drifted around me like the smoke that lays down in a valley on a calm day. Her words were powerful and affirming.  Two days later, as the smoke of the poem was still lingering in my "valley", I found a fat quarter in my stash that was the perfect match for Mo's poem. It had a large white area for the words, a solar burst, and lovely earthy movement that I knew I could work with. Contrasting mountain pieces were easy to find. Originally I envisioned putting a small yoga stick figure on the mountain top, but since then I have decided to keep it simple. Maybe I'll lay a figure on top to see how it works, but for now I am happy with the strength and simplicity and message of this piece.
mountain piece

Friday, December 4, 2009


shirts1 010
Mazatlan is my social fix. For all the solitude I have in the summer at Refuge Cove, I have a world of events and people at my fingertips here in Mazatlan. It's quite a nice blend, and I love the diversity. I feel like I'm given a fantastic menu to order all the fun things and interesting friends that I care to consume at this retirees' cafe. There's never an end to activity.
So when my friend, Linda, moved back to Michigan last summer, she left a hole in many hearts here. She was well loved and oh, so talented. She became a friend last year when she took my dyeing class, and became instantly hooked. We spent many a dye day together, and I lent her lots of tools and books and etc. when I went north last spring. But she decided to move north herself, and when she returned my things, she also bestowed a bevy of hand-me-downs to my doorstep. One item was a 30 yard bolt of beautiful white rayon that she had recently ordered from Dharma and hadn't used an inch of it. Wow! What a what to do with it?
About 5 years ago, I made the shirt above out of dyed cotton...I wanted a simple Mexican-like shirt that was cool, colorful and comfortable and I achieved it with this design. This summer, I made a few more, with side pockets, but they never did quite fit the same as this first one (I didn't have the original with me to use as a pattern). So, why not try more shirts with rayon. And why not include others who might be interested? So I contacted two friends, Val and Edwige, who both like to sew, have done some dyeing, and have sewing machines. Also, Edwige has a most wonderful book,Clothing from the Hands that Weave, (Anita Luvera Mayer) that reduces all ethnic clothing to the simple rectangle and gives wonderful ideas for making all kinds of simple garments. With the rayon, my dyes, the book, and our ideas and collaboration, I knew we could have some fun in designing and constructing rayon shirts, or other items of choice.
Last week we got together to get our fabric (to wash at home) and to decide on a color palette so I could have the dyes mixed and ready. Today we each dyed our 3 yards of rayon with our individual designs in mind.
shirts1 004
These final results will now be used for our shirts. Next week we'll work on design and cutting.  Our finished products are just a few weeks away.shirts1 006

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Sundays can be such lovely days. Quiet, peaceful, with minimal agendas that even can disappear. Here in Mazatlan, the streets are relatively quiet and families are gathered together for food and togetherness, one aspect we love so much about this country. For me, it was reading and writing, then a trip to the market with neighbors. Afterwards we shared lamb tacos together...yummmm!
Slowing down lends its way into digging back through time, like perusing through an old photo album, remembering fondly times gone by or old friends who warmed your heart. Or, in my case today, looking through the archives of old pieces from the past. They too are like old friends, time spent together lovingly, and maybe not with us anymore or perhaps ones that we've just lost contact with. Good memories.
This piece started out as a whole cloth that I just loved. I produced it in the early days of using water filters, and the light and movement attracted my attention. It was a storm at sea, and the Pisces in me was drawn to do something with it. I was new at foiling which became the perfect glowing medium for an orb of energy.
There is a lovely hotel/apartment comlex here in the heart of Mazatlan Centro called the Melville. Outside its entrance is a plaque with a quote by Herman Melville: "as for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas and land on barbarous coasts". I have always been moved by that quote and it seemed to be the perfect marriage with my whole cloth stormy sea scene. So I put them together into a piece approximately 20"x24", hung it on the wall at one of the artwalks, and it was quickly purchased by my good friend Maureen. She also is a kindred spirit of adventure and risk and listening to the spirit within. It found a good home, and I smile about that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


nov. quilt journal
I'm not sure what it was about Tom's "denial in Canada" situation (June, 2009 - "Locked Out of Life"), but it shook things up enough inside of me to know that I wanted some "time off". I really hadn't taken a moment after retirement to really breathe in the waters of life, to reflect on myself, and to just take the time to devote to myself. Yes, I do live an interesting life in two very special places, my husband and I work extensively in building our homes in both of these places, and I have been avidly pursuing my passion of fiber art in BOTH places. (I wondered where that word "schizophrenic" came from?)
This winter I have been totally into myself....journaling, searching, breathing, exploring...all of the above and then some. I have dropped out of pressing commitments, yet have maintained one or two that are quite meaningful to me. I wake up each morning saying "the day is mine".  (I don't think my husband has figured this out yet!)
November's quilt journal theme was "inspired from a nursery rhyme". My imagination stops short here, because when one is given the nickname of "Muffy" as a young child, its hard to go much further than the tuffet and the curds and whey. So what was I going to do with that damn spider???!!!!  I throw alot of things onto the page in my morning journal write, and lots of issues surface. The spider has come to represent all the "junk", the fears, the issues and all that needs exploration and reflection.
Its a friendly spider... he's going to be sitting next to me quite often, and I won't be running away!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


kuira"Kuira" (quee rah) is a greeting of the Raramuri people of Northwest Mexico. This indigineous group lives along the rim and canyon areas of the Sierra Tarahumara and the Copper Canyon, where we traveled last week.
A ten hour train ride took us from the town of El Fuerte to Creel, located in the heart of this area. The beautiful and open expanse of this canyon area was breathtaking to behold, and the Raramuri (all ages) were ever present as sellers of their handmade goods: baskets, carvings, and sewn items. The women wore beautifully crafted traditional dress of brightly colored skirts and blouses, and babies were often held to their back in a shawl. Small children would run up with baskets of trinkets to show us, and then would head back to their mothers who were making more items right there on site.parade5
The Raramuri speak their own language and live a harsh existence along the rim and into the canyons of this rugged terrain. I  witnessed many groups of women doing their laundry at river beds, and hanging the clothes to dry on fenceposts. Their beautiful outer garments contain meters of cotton, so I just couldn't imagine doing all that washing at the local stream, soaping, rinsing, hanging to dry... this certainly gave me a renewed appreciation for EVERYTHING!
master sewerOne women gave me reason to pause as I watched her sew one appeared to be a running stitch to later be gathered on her expanse of muslin. Maybe an undergarment? Maybe some bedding? She obviously had been doing this for many years, stitch after stitch, the memory of the needle through her fingers strong and firm. I felt a small connection with her and that repetitious task, yet also knew that somehow I had been blessed with a much easier life. I don't think I'll forget her.

Friday, November 20, 2009


sewing ladies nov09 023This morning was my first return to the community center where I spend every Monday morning when I'm in Mazatlan. It was a celebretory homecoming for my friend, Bev, and I who have been working with a group of  "sewing ladies" there for several years. And what a great morning it was! These gals know how to pack a lot of punch into one event.
Initial greetings are always full of hugs and kisses and Spanish phrases I try to interpret without losing the flow of the moment. There were many. Then I was greeted by Ivan, a young man who has been teaching art to this group. He assisted me last year in teaching the women to silk paint; it was a great collaboration - Ivan with his art background and my limited but sufficient silkpainting experience. In his arms, he presented me with a beautiful watercolor he had done. It is similar in style to the large mural he recently completed at the center....colorful and full of life, displaying all of the classes and endeavors that take place at this community center in a poor colonia in Mazatlan. I felt so honored! sewing ladies nov09 052 After the greetings and casual catching up/show-n-tells of projects they've recently completed, the real guests of honor showed up. Art and Jacquie Plunz of Red Deer, Alberta, arrived to see each of the 13 women involved in the group receive one of the sewing machines that they brought down in their truck and fifth-wheeler from Canada.  Our group leader, Toy Pruneda, had been in contact with Art and Jacquie and had discussed the needs of the group, and this generous couple took it from there. All of the machines where donated through their church or community members and are in excellent condition with recent service records. Toy also told them that the ladies like to make purses and other items out of used jeans, so the youth group at church took over and collected MANY...I didn't count but saw at least 5 or 6 huge bags. Art told me that the box of his truck was packed full, and initially the Mexican border guards were hesitant to let him pass through without a tariff, but gave him the "green light" upon realizing they were from Canada. sewing ladies nov09 043One by one, each lady sat with their "new" machine for a photo opportunity.  Here is Dora Alicia, one of the most accomplished sewers, who was chosen by Toy to receive the newest machine. In her hands, she holds a photo of Sharon Dickaw, the owner of this machine, who recently passed away. Her kind husband, Dale,wanted to make sure her machine was passed on to someone very special. What a beautiful and generous act! Dora Alicia, like all of the other twelve, were so happy and so appreciative of these gifts. Each then bestowed gifts of items they had made to Art and Jacquie to deliver to their generous friends in Red Deer.sewing ladies nov09 047

Jacquie is holding one of Lola's dolls and wearing one of Magui's beautiful scarves. Art was the recipient of a great apron along with many other sewn and hand-crafted items.
But the party wasn't over. As it was Cata's birthday (29 again!), we shared a lovely meal together of tamales, frijoles, ceviche, fruta, etole, and pineapple cake (pastel de pina). She was given a pile of canned goods and household items (from tp to laundry soap), collectively donated by the rest of us, as a most utilitarian gift.
And, as icing to the cake, we were blessed with two solos by our talented singers, Ceci and Lola. My heart was full and warm!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


birthday greetings
Hey Lee, this one's for you! You're the first recipient of my birthday quilt, and I can't think of a more deserving one. May your days be abundant and full, your garden the best ever, your dog walks full of sunshine and warmth. Enjoy enjoy! Cheers and hugs, Mary and Tom
(This was October's quilt journal, with the theme of "repetition". It started as a car project during our travels, and those candles are the repetitious part. Like the hands on the clock, the candles go round and round, repeating themselves, another year, another birthday.)
It's great to have friends like Lee to share in the repetition!

Monday, November 9, 2009


observing my process
I am currently having the opportunity to observe my creative process. This all has become very apparent to me as I began to undertake my first "mystery quilt". For those of you not privvy to this activity, the directions are doled out a month at a time (as is the case in my guild), and after the 5-6 months of directions, you end up with a surprise quilt.
Some people plan a quilt or other project with great care and planning. The colors, the design, the fabric acquisition, the borders, the binding, the batting, the backing, etc., are all decided upon beforehand, much as a professional does when contracting for a job. It is not left to happenstance or midstream changes - everything is written out beforehand. Well, that is not me. I've always known this fact, but this activity has made me more acutely aware, and I actually am stepping back and watching this whole process of mine unfold. Yes, I guess I could blame my schizo life-style...half time in BC and halftime in Mazatlan. But I'm not looking to place blame here....just observe. I really don't think there's any other reasoning than it's just me.
Month #1 had a major heading at the top : "Sept. 2009 - Fabric acquisition and step 1". There were three parts to this page:  (part 1) finished size and fabric needed, (part 2) fabric suggestions for each of the 6 steps, and (part 3) directions for step 1. Here's where my trouble began - I read SOME of part 1 and then went directly to parts 2 and 3. In part one, I read that I needed 6 fat quarters that went together but totally passed over the other fabric requirements, which happened to be alot of fabric - for background, inner and outer borders, binding, backing etc. I never had a clear idea of the size of this quilt. I told myself I would deal with it once I arrived and got settled in Mazatlan. But I did follow the directions in parts 2 and 3 that told me to cut twelve 5"x5" squares from a focus or pictorial fabric (the rooster above) and then I threw together some fat quarters that I had in my stash, put everything in my suitcase and headed south.
October arrived and my second set of directions was sent by email. I was directed to make twenty 5"x5" squares using fat quarter#2 and the background fabric. "Background fabric????" I said to myself. "What background fabric?" I now go back to September's directions and see this whole section that totally passed by my attention. So now, anxious to get started, I am making myself go back to the beginning and I am putting together my fabric for the WHOLE project (well, maybe not the backing!).
And what do I observe? Reading ALL the directions and moving along step by step are challenges for me. The idea of taking a moment to visualize a potential finished project is almost foreign to me. I tend to either get in a hurry or get so focused on one little element that the whole gets lost in the process.  I can't tell you how many times one little VERY IMPORTANT element has gone unnoticed. It's embarrassing... but it's me!  I honor my serendipitous, seat of the pants, flexible, adaptive ways, but stepping back and observing my process through this mystery quilt can also be used to my benefit. Maybe I'm the mystery to be solved in all of this. I love surprises!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


After a month on the road, we finally arrived in Mazatlan. With a mountain of tasks ahead of us in setting up our house, organizing etc., I set my personal priorities: get the kitchen clean and set up, make the bed, get the phone and internet reconnected, and then dip my toes into the waters of dyeing, sewing and creativity! My few handsewing projects while traveling kept me busy but now I want to fill my life with fabric! Of course I know how to multi-task the everyday household tasks with the fun stuff!
So first things first...unearthing all my pieces to hang on the walls, setting up my studio, etc.
I have always been concerned about storing my cotton hangings in the horribly humid climate here in Mazatlan during the summer. A few years back, I found mildew on one piece, and another had some running of dye that left some unsightly stains. With washing, the first came out fine and the second had remnants of staining that I never did remove.
My current method is to set up a large diameter dowel across 2 tall objects so I can drape pieces over it. I start with a towel, and then alternate hangings with towels or pillow cases, until I am done. I never want two hangings to come into contact with each other, just in case some dye runs. All of this happens in the middle of a room in which we leave a fan running to keep the air moving. A large sheet drapes over the whole package. Everything came out beautifully except for pieces I had to fold...even with this summer's Hurricane Rick! Those creases are buggers, but I am hoping they will disappear after hanging for awhile. I'll be keeping my eye out for a longer dowel this year to accomodate my bigger pieces.
It has been great for Tom and I to connect with our Mazatlan friends, and for me to get back with my favorite quilts and hangings. They, too, are just like old friends!

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Well, I've been putting off this moment. I guess it makes it official...I am moving my blog to another site. My friend Catherine, also a computer wiz, offered to help me set myself up on another system, one that allows for more layers, more depth, that I THINK I want. So far, I'm a bit frustrated, but once settled in Mazatlan, I will put my efforts into it and see what I can produce. So, please visit:

Who knows? I may end up returning here, but I'll give it my best shot.

Tonight is Halloween and we are tucked away in our Best Western room in a border town near Eagle Pass, Texas. Tomorrow we cross to our welcoming winter home of Mexico. More later!

Monday, October 26, 2009


fresh picked
Our travels have taken us through areas of the beautiful Southwest that are new to us: Zion, Bryce, Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott, and Santa Fe. On arriving at this last stop, it became apparent that it was worthy of a much longer visit to really explore all of the art and energy and creativity that was so apparent. I scoured the visitors' guide for ideas on what to experience, and I realized that our Friday/Saturday visit coincided with the local Farmer's Market, and I knew I couldn't  miss it!  Organic meat, vegies, artisan cheese, breads, apples, flowers, herbal products and more.  It was a huge display and wonderfully supported by locals and tourists (like us!). I was happy to see worm colonies for composting available, and of course was looking for any new sewing ideas I might pick up and borrow (there were one or two!). We purchased fresh bread, some garlic/caper goat cheese, a jar of pepper jelly, and a few apples for our picnic lunch along the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos.  It was fantastic! Santa Fe, we'll be back!
southwest3 017

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Our journey south to Mazatlan has taken on a new look this year.southwest1 028
No more drive till we die, blast through the miles, or end our days cranky, sore and tired. We have turned over a new's called  the NO-SCHEDULE road trip!  After wonderful visits with friends and family along I-5, we then ventured east to new territory for us, namely the amazing parklands of southern Utah - Cathedral Gorge, Red Rock, Cedar Break, Bryce Canyon and Zion! We are loving it and are in awe and breathless wonder over the colors, textures and formations that meet us at every glance.  Add in the brilliant fall colors and today's first dusting of snow, and it truly is Mother Nature at her finest. 
  southwest1 109                                                                                 
Of course I'm wondering how I'll put some of this imagery into my work. It's that amazing combination of vertical and horizontal in the rock formations that I think about capturing.  And those colors....the clay reds, the burnt oranges, splashes of gray and brown, aspens with sparkling yellow diamond leaves. The shapes, the light, the depth and layers....the powerful images are ruminating inside of me.  This traveling break is just the inspiration I have needed!
So onward we go....Arizona, New Mexico, Texas bound before heading to our Mexican home.
Many many thanks to our great hosts over the miles:  Ray and Diane (Cortes Island), Jim and Sharon (Sidney), Scott and Donna (Anacortes), Chris and Dave (Vancouver, WA.), Kathe and Mike (Ashland), Cathy (Redding), and Michelle and Mark (Big Bend, CA.). These are  our five star friends!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Yes, here it is, that time of the year again. The temps are dropping, daylight disappearing, and that little niggly feeling inside that time has come to think about heading south. We are 9 days away from departing and I am circling and spinning through my world, finishing projects, sorting though my stuff, dividing my world into here and there boxes, and making lists: to-dos, to-buys, to-write, to-finish, etc., etc. It's a multi-tasking whirlwind.
This morning I was sorting through my sewing stash, prepping for a last minute class I'm taking this weekend on Quadra with Pippa Moore. Into the tub goes my fabric, thread, pins, needles, scissors, rotary cutter, ruler, etc., etc. Being in my multi-tasking frame of mind, I thought I would also sort through my thread, choose what to take with me to Mazatlan and what to leave behind. (My thread option in Maz is limited to the small size Guterman - approx. $.50 each.) I pulled out all my large-spooled neutrals, and then noticed how many GREENS I had. For some reason, I rarely use them and decided to sort them into a container of their own. From there I reeled into a quick green-design of spools before moving on.... lovely, I think.
Our travels will take us from here to Cortes, then to Cumberland for the annual Hands Across the Water event for all area guild members, then Sydney for a few days before crossing the border. A meandering path through the states will take us to Texas to visit good friends Bob and Gisela where a lot of catching up and laughing will take place. Then Mazatlan bound. first class will be a part of the Embracing the Artist Within Workshop where I'll teach silk painting with a color focus. And from there, the winter will unravel into more fiber activities with friends and newcomers, exciting projects, classes, adventures, maybe a retreat or two, cooking classes.....hmmmmm, I am getting excited for that other life I lead.

But in the meantime, I have more thread to sort.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I love trying new dye techniques and it seems like I was presented with many this summer. I can't say that I took any classes to add new ideas to my repertoire, but I did happen to be in the right place at the right time WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE. I know talented, creative people when I see them, and if I sense any connection with fiber, I glom right on and start asking questions or discussing a focal point of interest.
A few years back, Christine showed me the most beautiful turtle that she had carved onto a piece of "easy cut", a material similar to a linoleum block but much easier to use. Graciously she allowed me to use it to make an image on fabric that I later put into a piece I titled "despacio" or "slow down". I knew I would try the easy-cut someday. Last spring, I purchased eight 4x6 inch blocks and began cutting simple geometric shapes to make fabric for one of my journal quilt pieces. The day came when Cathy came up from her boat and the time felt right for both of us to have some printing fun. The results were fantastic and I readily put them together for my August journal assignment.

The next new technique came out of my own swirling thoughts. It's such a dilema when ones hair starts to go gray. Intervene or let it go? My mood swings to and fro on this one, and recently I started wondering about a major intervention after the last few years of the au natural look. For some reason, I began thinking about the foil wraps I've seen during color treatments at the salon, and from there moved right on in to my dye studio to try it out. Of course, my hair had nothing to do with this process....but just had to get the cotton and the foil sheets out to see what would happen. I have some 10" filters, taken from the guts of old water filters that I now typically wrap fabric on, secure tightly with rubber bands, place in a tall cylinder, and then start pouring dye down through the middle of the filter. I love the wild results. But now I was about to use foil instead of the rubber bands, and I also tightened the foil around the bottom of the filter to hopefully hold the liquid in the cylinder.
I have to admit that I used REALLY OLD dye for this. And not just really old, but dye that had sat out in my studio in the recent heat wave temps in the 90's. I ALWAYS am so disappointed when I do this, but there's that frugal side of me that hates to waste anything. Maybe someday I'll learn. BUT, I do think the process has merit and I will be trying it again.
Another new technique, one that I need to explore much more, is using shaving cream with my dye. Christine explained how to do it over the phone, and that was enough to set me off and running. I mixed the shaving foam with three different colors and squirted them in a spiral design on a piece of cotton. The result was less than pleasing. A little later that afternoon, local teens Meghan and Matt brought over some dyeables, and among their cotton was a khaki green canvas hat that Meg's dad wanted us to try out. This is what we did with the hat.Although I don't have a picture of the finished result, notice how the dye kept its shape on the canvas and remained on the surface without melting into the fabric and blending with the other colors. I think there's lots of potential for more exploration here.
Okay, on to other techniques. At last month's guild meeting, Laurie Ann brought a collection of hand dyes she had fun with this summer. She sewed a square of cotton into a sleeve that would tightly fit over a large-diameter pvc pipe. Then she bunched it all up togther on the pipe, and secured it at the top and bottom. This tightly pleated sleeve of cotton was now taking up about 2" of space on the pipe, and into the dye bath it went. (I WISH I had taken photos of her amazing work.) So back at home, I set to trying it myself, but using a wine bottle instead of the pipe. ( I tend to have many more wine bottles around my house for some unknown reason, and I'm always looking for multiple uses.) The results were fabulous and I WILL be trying more of this. I'll have to figure out how to create larger pieces. Thank you Laurie Ann for your great inspiration.

Then that creative wizard, Cathy, applied ink to the salmon she caught and printed it onto an old sheet. That's will be on my list for next year!

Last but not least, Tom brought up an old canner from under our house (storage area) that we inherited from the past owners. I was in need of a kettle for heating water, and what should I find at the bottom of the canner, but those round spacers to keep the jars off the bottom. Two of them....just perfect for sandwiching fabric between and pouring dye over. What would be the result?

Did I mention what I found at the local free store on Cortes yesterday? I just couldn't pass these up!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Terry and Ellen, co-winners from last year's challenge, presented our guild members with a small piece of very domestic, kitcheny fabric showing a myriad of baking tools. Then came the theme: "well behaved women seldom make history". Hmmmm...this one would require some thought (as they all do!).

So with two months to ponder on how to meld the fabric and the theme into something meaningful for myself, I eventually wound my way into honoring my mother's great pie crust recipe. After all, she was well-behaved, never made history, but did make a damn good apple pie, of which family members still talk about.

I knew the exact wall where I would hang this piece so took my measurements and worked out my plan from there. I chose fabrics that blended with the focus piece and also the light colored fir of my cabinets. I remember needing to have a hand-sewing project (must have been a travel day or a craft shop sales day with time on my hands) so I fussy-cut the small baking tools and hand pieced them with a gingery-colored hand dye. I stamped out the title with foam stamps and thickened black dye, but needed to hand letter the actual recipe, as keeping it within a relatively small space was important. I put the pieces all together in somewhat of a "temple" look, then added the small white buttons as a finishing touch.

This is one of my very favorite pieces! Its a wonderful testimony to my mom and it gets me making pies (pumpkin for me) on a more frequent basis. It also may start the discussion or debate on "best pie crust recipe", or "crisco or tenderflake?".

Friday, September 11, 2009


The theme for last year's summer challenge was something in the "green" realm which also seemed to be a popular theme in quilting magazines. The main criteria was to use recycled fabrics and fibers within the challenge piece. Janet (the previous year's winner) presented the information and spirally-green and not-so-great fabric (of course!) to all interested participants at the June meeting.

I had been saving "chip bags" for awhile and had quite a good collection of them. I had seen some totes and purses made from them and thought that SOMEDAY (the famous Someday!) I would try making one too. I particularly liked the fact that I had chip bags from both Mexico and Canada which gave me three languages.

I love symmetry, and mandalas always attract my attention with their beauty, simplicity and symmetry. So I started cutting them up for some design work. I found them tedious to work with, so ended up carefully ironing on a fusible to the back, which helped in placing them and sewing them down. I realized that once a mistake is made with sewing, its hard to undo as the needle holes/perforations are left behind. Anyway, allof this fussiness took much of my interest in chip bags away, but I persisted and managed to complete the mandala.
For further embellishment, I cut out red aluminum circles from coke cans, hammered in two holes to make them buttons, and sewed them to the outside of the mandala. That was enough. Then the binding and I was finished. For a finale, all my saved chip bags went into the trash.
On the day of our first fall meeting, all challenges anonymously went onto the wall and we placed our votes. Norma, the winner, had a delightful flower display, with 6 different varieties and their botanical names. For example, one flower was made totally of the selvages showing the little circles of color from different fabrics and she titled it "selvagia veriganis" or something of the like. Clever and well done Norma!
My mandala sits in a box. I'll have to find a fitting place to hang it! Perhaps near my recycling area....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Even though I'm a part-timer in my quilt guild (Quadra Quilters), I cherish those monthly meetings and get-togethers with the other 40+ talented, energetic and warm-hearted women in the guild. When we break for summer, we are always left with the choice of participating in the "summer challenge." The winner from the previous year has the privilege of choosing a theme and a very ugly piece of cotton to divvy out among participants, and then she challenges other members to put their creative summer talents to work. In September, pieces are anonymously hung and we each get one vote. The winner's prize? be in charge on next year's challenge.

I love this. I think I'm a competition junkie at heart. In June, Norma presented us with a teal-y piece of cotton with the theme of "the enchanted universe" and told us to have at it. I cringed at both the fabric and the theme....neither struck a cord with me. I hung the fabric on the wall and looked at it for 2 months while ideas drifted in and out.

A week before our September meeting, I realized my thinking time had come to an end and I had to get moving. The three best ideas swirling around in my head had to do with 1)my backyard pond, 2)the quote "if my heart were a garden, what would I plant?", and 3)trying to recapture the magic I experienced during a nighttime kayak trip with a group of women friends. The latter became my choice and I set to work.
The ugly teal-y fabric became both the land and the water by using the reverse side. I then called upon the remnants of the palette I produced at the Cortes class. That earthy yellow worked so well and even pulled out a bit of the similar color found in the dark teal piece. I had very little left to make kayaks but did find enough in pink, blue, rust and purple. Not the greatest colors, BUT because they are from one palette, worked so well together. After sewing them to the background and my batting, I proceeded to free motion the kayak seats into the "kayak flowers", along with the paddle leaves and paddle rays of the sun. I filled in the rest with my favorite spiraling, and then was ready to discharge the seats and paddles to accentuate them. This time I used Soft Scrub with bleach in my little metal tipped bottle. It discharged the color, I then washed out the bleach, let it dry, and added the binding and the sleeve. For the final details, I chose some sweet buttons to add as flower centers, etc.. I completed the piece the day before the meeting. Phew!
Happily, might I add, I won this year's competition! There were 7 entries and they were all amazing, as they usually are! My prize was a fantastic book titled "Skinny Quilts and Tablerunners from Today's Top Designers" (thank you Norma!) and the privilege of planning next year's summer challenge. I've already got some ideas.
While I'm at it, I might as well display my other 3 challenge pieces from past years....but that's for tomorrow.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I love palettes of color - seeing the offspring of those simple primaries of red, yellow and blue, and then putting them together into one project so all those colors just magically connect and work together. I always am promoting this idea, but actually taking the time to do it is another know, the "so many ideas, so little time" thing. But lately I have wound my way into palette work, and satisfying it has been.
A few years back, I came up with a straight and square Mexican-ish shirt design that uses fat quarters and is oh so comfortable to wear. I got back to some shirt sewing this summer, this time putting pockets in the sides. My first was using palette pieces, and those to follow featured some of my unique hand dyes that I wanted to highlight on the pockets, the yoke, etc. Which gets the most compliments? Yes, the prototype palette shirt, and I believe its because of those simple and soothing colors that just belong together like a family of colors. The pockets are too short and the shirt a bit baggy, but I get many positive comments when I wear it.
Then I had a lovely palette of colors from my recent class on Cortes Island and I decided to divide them up into warms and cools and work with them separately. The results are below - two totes that are making their way over to the Craft Cooperative to be placed with my other goods for sale. Of course I had to incorporate bleaching/discharging (this time using Soft Scrub with bleach) which adds a great dimensionality to the whole.
For me, the warm palette works much better than the cool as the residual yellows fall in place with the background. Once again, another piece of information to put in the experiential file cabinet. Happy dyeing, happy sewing!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Early Saturday morning, I hopped in the boat for a 15 minute ride to Cortes Island, then took a 20 minute auto traverse across the island to the tiny community of Whaletown. Jan and Carole, co-horts in the Craft Co-operative, put together a group of four for some dye lessons at Carole's place.I brought 2 tubs and a bucket with supplies, while Jan used her wheelbarrow to carry her things from across the road.

A lovely deck in the trees with an ocean view was the perfect setting for our eager group to watch and try out dyeing techniques.

The canning jars and a multitude of other supplies lined our tables.

Helene shows us her work. Notice the moonsnails on the railing and the coastal backdrop.

The buzz of the sawmill drifted through the air most of the day.
Everyone went home with a lovely palette of colors. I will be showing you what I did with mine very soon.

I couldn't help but notice Carole's sewing nook, peacefully located in a shower stall that isn't being used. Clever, yes?Thanks, Whaletowners, for a great day!